Medical Transport ordinance approved

Published 10:56 am Monday, September 20, 2010

GATESVILLE — With one key element changed, the Gates County Board of Commissioners have adopted a Medical Transport Franchise Ordinance.

The granting of a Franchise means a certificate is issued by the board of commissioners granting the right, privilege and duty to operate an ambulance service for the purpose of transporting emergency or non-emergency patients to and from medical facilities.

As discussed at their August meeting, the board expressed concern over the high dollar amount of annual fees for medical transport entities that are located within the county’s borders.

The draft ordinance introduced at the August meeting  mentioned that a $500 application fee is required. Upon being granted a franchise there is an annual renewal fee of $2,500 plus a $100 per vehicle fee.

The renewal fee sparked comments from Phyllis Harrell, owner/operator of Harrell Medical Transport, a business founded in 1981 in the county and remains in operation.

While Harrell took no issue with the operational standards set forth in the ordinance, including an annual performance audit of her company, she strongly felt the fee schedule was unfair.

In regards to paying county taxes every year, Harrell said, at the August meeting, “We need a balance here of fairness. Are they (new transport providers) going to establish a business here and pay taxes here in the county like I’ve done for the last 30 years or are they going to stay over in Ahoskie or Greenville or Williamston, wherever they are coming out of to do work here, but they’re only going to have a one-time fee and the county really makes no more money from them.”

Harrell said the ordinance, as first presented, called for an annual renewal fee of $2,500 plus an additional $100 per vehicle. She said that would amount to an annual cost of $4,100 for her business.

Apparently the commissioners were listening.

At their regularly scheduled meeting earlier this month, Gates County Manager Toby Chappell noted a key change in the ordinance, specifically dealing with the annual fees.

“The only concern the board had at the last meeting was concerning the fees,” Chappell noted. “With that we have added a fourth paragraph to Section 113. The will of the board was that they wanted current medical transportation providers to be exempt from some or most of the fees levied. The addition of this paragraph does that…it will exempt them from all fees with the exception of the $500 annual renewal fee.”

“This change allows the existing businesses to pay an annual $500 fee that basically covers inspections and administrative costs but it doesn’t require them to pay a $2,500 annual fee, I think that’s we all agreed on last month,” said Commissioner Henry Jordan.

Jordan then asked if Harrell was the only business within the county that was affected by this ordinance.

“Technically, this would also apply to (Gates County) EMS, but the only one in this context would be Harrells,” Chappell answered.

Board Chairman Graham Twine then called for a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. Upon no one making comment, for or against, the public hearing was closed.

Jordan motioned for the approval of the ordinance. It was seconded by Commission Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan and was approved without objection.

In a related matter, the Commissioners discussed the creation of a Medical Transport Advisory Council. Membership (three-year terms) on the council will consist of the Gates County Manager, the county’s Medical Director, the Gates County Emergency Management Director, a designee from Gates County EMS, a sitting member of the Gates County Board of Commissioners and one person appointed by the board.

Twine volunteered and was elected to represent the Commissioners on that council. The board is now seeking community volunteers to be considered for their appointee.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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